1/14/2006

"philo"-semitism

The relationship between certain evangelical Christian groups and Israel has always been fascinating. Via Haroon comes a piece in the Washington Post that discusses the "philo-semitic" movement in detail. The following quote from one such pastor caught my eye:

"I feel jealous sometimes. This term that keeps coming up in the Old Book -- the Chosen, the Chosen," says the minister, who has made three trips to Israel and named his sons Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. "I'm a pardoned gentile, but I'm not one of the Chosen People. They're the apple of his eye."


I am baffled. and here's another:

The Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, chairman of the evangelical American Family Association, warned in a Dec. 5 radio broadcast that Foxman was "in a bind" because the "strongest supporters Israel has are members of the religious right -- the people he's fighting."

"The more he says that 'you people are destroying this country,' you know, some people are going to begin to get fed up with this and say, 'Well, all right then. If that's the way you feel, then we just won't support Israel anymore,' " Wildmon said.


So their support for Israel is what, a high-school clique? "You meanies, stop complaining about our theocratic agenda, or we won't invite you to our party!"

I'm teasing a bit but there is a genuinely fascinating aspect to the intellectual and theologic disconnect that seems to govern these people. Here's the theologic underpinning:

Mark A. Noll, a professor of Christian thought at Wheaton College, a center of evangelical scholarship in Illinois, said evangelicals are beginning to move away from supersessionism -- the centuries-old belief that with the coming of Jesus, God ended his covenant with the Jews and transferred it to the Christian church.

Since the 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations have renounced supersessionism and stressed their belief that the covenant between God and the Jewish people remains in effect.

Evangelicals generally have not taken that step, but "among what you might call the evangelical intelligentsia, questions of supersessionism have come onto the table," Noll said. "It's in play among evangelicals in the way that it was in mainline Protestantism and Catholicism -- but wasn't among evangelicals -- 30 or 40 years ago."


I confess to being flabbergasted that supersessionism isn't doctrine for all Christians. Rejeccting it is tantamount to denying the primacy of your own faith. And if that's the case. then why follow that faith?

1 comment:

Thomas Nephew said...

That is weird. Maybe one can square this particular theological circle this way: "not ending the covenant" may not mean that Christ isn't paramount, it may just mean that the Jewish people remain "chosen" somehow, perhaps the target of divine disappointment but not renunciation.

BTW, Noll is the author of a challenging book on American theology that I mentioned in passing once, while taking issue with Eugene Genovese's TNR article about it. His school, Wheaton, is quite doctrinaire; he manages to conceal it most of the time in his book, but it makes for difficult reading. Lots of use of the word "hermeneutics" is my main memory at this point.